Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Letter to my Grandmother

Dear Grandma,

This is kind of a strange letter to write. Not only have you been gone for over 10 years, but when you were with us, you and I were not very close. You lived far away. Your husband was a tough cookie who never made his son (or grandchildren) feel especially loved or supported. You were a much kinder and softer person than he, but we never had much in common. I never really felt as though I knew who you were as a person. I was barely 20 years old when you passed, and you did not know me well either.

However, I am starting to realize that you might be the one person in my family that would truly understand my current situation, if you were still here. After I lost my baby, Mom and Dad reminded me that you had several miscarriages. They didn't know specifics about why the pregnancies failed, but they knew you desperately wanted more children. Not in over a decade had I so badly wanted to pick up the phone and call you.

Knowing this about you makes me think of you in a completely different way. Actually, it also gives me an entirely new perspective regarding your marriage to Grandpa. I admit, I judged you harshly. Growing up, I would watch him order you around and lose his temper, and I blamed you for it. Your marriage seemed cold and distant, compared to that of my own parents and maternal grandparents. "Why on earth would you stay?" I wondered. I felt like you were a victim. I felt like you allowed a man to dominate you. Now, I think I was wrong.

I now suspect that you probably felt guilt, shame, and sadness about not being able to give my dad a sibling. Although you loved Dad deeply, you had more love to share and were robbed of the opportunity to share it. Maybe you felt like you failed your husband, who also wanted more children. Did this cause the tension and isolation between you that was so noticeable to others? The pain of repeated pregnancy loss must have been overwhelming, and you lived through it during a time when such things were rarely spoken of. Doting on your family was probably the best way you knew to cope and move on with your life.

Although your life was quite different from mine, I feel in my heart that you would have understood the pain I feel about trying to conceive. You and I both know the pain that comes from having a supposed biological certainty become the source of so much fear. We know that no matter how much time goes by, you can't help but wonder if the baby would have had your eyes and his smile. We also know that the stress of all of this affects not only your marriage, but your relationships with friends and family. I am incredibly lucky to be married to a kind, generous, patient, and loving man who never, ever thinks of me as a failure, as I see myself sometimes. I wonder what your life would have been like if you had a partner that was emotionally present and supportive.

I wish things had been different for you, Grandma. I am sorry that I was too young and inexperienced to understand the depth and complexity you possessed in life. I miss you.



  1. Beautiful letter. I am close with my paternal grandmother. Always have been up until dealing with IF and miscarriage. It feels as though no one in my family can relate. Your letter is so empowering - even though your grandmother cannot answer - knowing you aren't alone must give some comfort.

  2. That was beautiful. It's interesting how once you go through infertility and loss, you can see how it probably deeply affected the lives of others around you, too.

  3. OMG Detour thank you for mentioning the post on the Stirrup Queens. You are amazing!

  4. What a powerful post. I often wonder what it would have been like to go through IF at a time before fertility testing, IUI/IVF and online communities of supportive women sharing a wealth of information. Your grandmother lived in a time when People Didn't Talk About It and everyone blamed the woman. How isolated and helpless she must have felt. (And how lucky we are to at least live in a time where so much is available to us!)

  5. Thank you for the comment! I agree - we are lucky to have blogs and such to share experiences.

  6. This is a beautiful post! It reminds me very much of my own experience finding a new understanding of what my aunt went through after multiple losses. Sadly, I got there years after she died as well.

  7. Thank you for this post. I have been having similar thoughts these last few years. My maternal grandmother was infertile and never had children of her own. She adopted my mom and uncle as babies. But, in coming to terms with the fact that I will likely never have children of my own, I so wish that I could talk to her. But, like you, my grandmother died before I knew I was infertile. I may just write her a letter, like you did to your grandmother.

    Here from Mel's weekly roundup.


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